The Philippines as Yugoslavia Revisited

1.

 

Ambeth R. Ocampo offers the Cebuano word “kaagi,” which “literally means ‘the way or path we have passed’,” instead of the Spanish “historia” or the “orthographically… Filipino ‘historya’.” Then there is “Kasaysayan,” which Zeus Salazar of Pantayong Pananaw cultic discourse prefers over “historya” as the former is rooted in “story” (salaysay) and more importantly “saysay” (sense or meaning). “Historya” has only “story.”

 

For the layman who views history as simply a narrative of events past, have lapsed after some anthropological time, it would be – the lexical concern – hairsplitting. But for academics given to establishing parameters for interpreting artefacts of social import & production of corresponding ideas, it would be the necessary scholasticism.

 

Yet history does not come to us as a series of actual performance or live events, but a retelling of the lost, ambiguated past, whose textualization implicates the signification of language & the hermeneutics thereof. After all, in the words of Terry Eagleton, re the present of history: “Every epoch suffers from the disability of being contemporaneous with itself, and of having no idea where it might lead.” Or to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek: Do we know what’s going on?

 

Here language is the pivot on which history, or what quirk of history as rendered by the authorial self, turns & becomes that-which-seems to have really transpired. Some Pantayon historians have been quick to advocate that the writing of history could only be “essentialized” by transcribing the hypothesized into Filipino, inasmuch as the so-called authenticity of experience – determined by logic of extrapolation & nativist perspective – cannot be rendered truthful by a language (English, Spanish, German, whatever) foreign to a racial sensibility. Thus, Salazar has always been heard as saying, more or less, that that which is written in English, for instance, be it in fiction or formal essay, is contaminated with error because the medium opaques the reflection of the object of discourse or discovery.

 

He had, in fact, remarked to someone that his literary stuff written is English – no matter that it is deemed inflected Filipino – as substantially & linguistically inconsequential because writ large in a foreign medium. But his claim elides the supposition that Filipino texts could likewise be arguably vehicles of falsehood as well.

 

This notion of language being itself a representation of the so-called object is, for Eagleton, exemplum of incarnational fallacy too often claimed in poetry, even prose, for the argument “of form and content [become] entirely one because the poem’s language somehow ‘incarnates’ its meaning. Whereas language points to things, poetic language actually embodies them. There is a theology lurking behind this poetics: just as the Word of God is the Father made flesh, so the poem does not simply talk about things, but in some mysterious way ‘becomes’ them.” Furthermore, “only when words cease to be themselves and merge into their referents can they be truly expressive.”

 

This is the kernel of poetics in local literary workshops whenever the question of language & craft crop up.

 

At any rate, Ocampo & Salazar & their academic acolytes, in effect stress that Filipino & Cebuano are “naturally incarnational,” while foreign languages “palely reflect things than correctly enact them.” The rub, however, is the archival facts come to us in Spanish, & the subsequent translations already muddle the interpretation of the essence, so to speak.

 

This fetish among scholastics, of course, misses the point that language, in whatever form, is only a play of signifier & signifieds, whose relational interaction produces the Bakhtinian meaning so chosen, or sifted in the minds of the articulators. (Salazar managed to explore the Tasaday scam by showing the tribal language as contaminated by the outside world, thus affirming the untruth in the claim of being authentic “savages.”)

 

In this wise, an analytical mode of psychologizing history, for instance, would reveal the ideological disposition of a historian, whose metaphorization of history betrays his notion of it.

 

For instance, Neferti Tadiar would zero in on Teodoro Agoncillo’s preface to The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan, as symptomatic of a “distortion” in his personal construction of what purports to be an impersonal project.

 

It reads in part: “It is as if in the midst of a lively conversation between two friends, a maid suddenly appeared to tell the host that a salesman was at the door. In the second place, I refuse the positions I have taken in the main narrative, believing, likewise, that it is improper of me to dispute things with my visitor – in this case, the reader – in the sala. I have thought it best to argue in the backroom – in the Notes at the end of this book.”

 

Tadiar argues: “What appears, in a psychological explanation, as fictive threats from within the self turn out to have social and material form. The ilustrado ideal of domestic comfort and ease which Agoncillo tries to realize in and as scholarly write is potentially disrupted by rude concerns of commerce and petty enterprises represented by the intrusive salesman. The narrative which secures the ilustrado subjecthood is conceived as a civilized sala conversation between two friends which mundane economic concerns as well as politically-tendentious arguments must be excluded and relegated to the backroom, the Notes at the end of the book.” & so on.

 

The historical imaging is not confronted by history itself as objective, pure, empirical, but as unconscious invention from various determinations of class, gender, race, religion et cetera. At the end of the chapter, Tadiar pins down Agoncillo’s historiography: “…psychology is the logic of attachments and sympathetic action which serves as the very ‘methodology’ of Agoncillo’s history… It is not just that Agoncillo is ‘prejudiced’ by prior regional, gender and class identification. Rather it is that Agoncillo plays out the affective alignments which enable and secure the proper affiliation of the nation with an emergent, privileged class to which he belongs…”

 

We are therefore seduced into the creative process of Ocampo’s and Salazar’s historicizing: from what vantage or filiation are they speaking to configure their discourse? What fetishism — individuals submerged in what collective or paradigmatic shift – is allowed to determine their texts?

 

(To note, R. Kwan Laurel remarks on Mobo Gao’s The Battle for China’s Post, that though recuperating the real Mao vis-à-vis the misrepresentation by detractors, it seems to have fallen short of more radical exposition, but slanted toward some defensiveness in relation to post-Mao reforms: “The only explanation I have for this conclusion is that the author, being based in the University of Adelaide, had to make his bow in the direction of global capitalism, as he also benefits from it… The university… after all, is famous for its ties with corporations and the Australian defense industry.”

 

Consequently, is not history per se that is made to unfold before us, in the imaginative as well as syntagmatic level, simply possibilities of truth perceived by historians who are likewise bound to mistake the forest for the trees?

 

Rendering history as text undergoes the rigor of deconstruction. Belsey posits “the text as being a construct” and “should be analyzed of its process and conditions out of the available discourses. Ideology, masquerading as coherence and plenitude, is in reality inconsistent” [take note of Agoncillo’s ideological claim & the psychological counterclaim in his preface] “limited, contradictory, and the realist text as a crystallization of ideology participates in this incompleteness even while it diverts attention from the fact in the apparent plenitude of narrative closure… [It] is the mode of production, the materials and then the arrangement is the work.”

 

Briefly, the text “becomes plural, open to re-reading, no longer an object for passive consumption but an object of work by the reader to produce meaning.”

 

Historical texts, ergo, cannot afford a closure: Ocampo, Salazar et al, can only presume a historical & historicized position that is subject to contestation – the choice of the language of narration merely a scholastic posture.

 

Which brings us to what historical reading should be done on the trial of Radovan Karadzic at the Hague, where he was extradited to face the charges “for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia War.” The crime of genocide is ominously implicated here.

 

The media effect of their event, thousands of miles away from the Filipino consciousness & reading, is played out as employment of justice that warns dictators their power & time are not unlimited.

 

Milosevic, earlier, died while in detention; Karadzic faces the same prospect of a trial that is heavily laced with politically hidden agenda.

 

For Michael Collon, “Belgian writer and journalist [who] has written extensively on the geo-political aims of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, [and] author of two books on the Balkans, Liar’s Poker and Monopoly, the question should be: “The Hague: Who judges what?”

 

He claims that the “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)” does not guarantee a fair trial inasmuch as “it is political and violates [international] law… It involves a dangerous precedent for all… that Bush and Company are preparing.”

 

Can, after all, justice be served by a “tribunal that has no legal basis, largely funded from not disinterested private finance (Soros, Rockefeller, Time-Warner)… that refuses to try the crimes committed in ex-Yugoslavia by Washington protégés, not to mention NATO’s own crimes…”

 

With respect to Milosevic, whose case confronts Karadzic as well, the “Supreme Court of Belgrade had declared the extradition of Milosevic illegal… but the Flemish government or that of Brussels carried out the extradition nonetheless… Everyone knows that the Djnidjic government carried out their transfer in exchange for a reward that the United States didn’t even pay him.”

 

“It’s the new style,” he continues “Bush violates the rights of prisoners of war” [referring to the Taliban prisoner at Guantanamo]; “he installs dictatorial military tribunals.”

 

For historical backdrop, he notes: “In 1980 the International Court of Justice condemned President Reagan for having mined the ports of Nicaragua with the goal of destabilizing the leftist Sandinista government there… The US stopped recognizing the Court…” [and threatens] “it is out of the question that any US citizen can be charged for crimes he may have committed and the US Marines would go and rescue him by force no matter where in the world the trial would be taking place.”

 

He adds that “the masters of the world claim that they are judging Milosevic, but refuse to judge [Chile’s General Augusto] Pinochet or [Israel’s Ariel] Sharon. The latter can illegally occupy Palestine, practice apartheid, ethnic cleansing by steps and terror, yet he continues to receive billions and billions of dollars and euros, and Europe doesn’t raise its little finger.”

 

(Obama, for all his agit-prop of change vis-a-avis Bush, is supportive of Israel, with his eyes on the powerful Jewish lobby. & Hillary Clinton’s remark that she would make use of nuclear deterrence if Israel is attacked, merely shows more of the same of the Republican policy that the Democrats would pursue, anyway, in a more sophisticated ploy, anyway – the “blackening” of America has never been so real, this time couched in the language of motherhood & capitalist revivalism.)

 

& this is the crux of Collon’s prosecutorial defense: “Milosevic has been attacked not for crimes he might have committed but because he resisted the IMF and the multinationals that wanted to control his country… The most important dimension of this trial [is] Bush is threatening more and more countries that are rebellious: [North] Korea, Iraq, even Iran, [guerillas] in Colombia, Philippines [underscoring mine], and tomorrow still others. The goal of this trial is to intimidate all the other Third World leaders who follow a course of resistance to multinationals… It is a trial of intimidation.”

 

It is ironic that the trouble for Milosevic started in “1989, when [he] tended to introduc[e] capitalism to Yugoslavia, all the while hoping to control it” [underscoring mine]. But the “IMF-style capitalism” [this is actually the route being followed by local economic planners] has brought about “the colossal price hikes, homes deprived of electricity, massive loss of jobs.” Which led President [Vojislav] Kosamica to demand “early elections” [to change the ordered path] but “NATO [stopped] it from happening.”

 

The rest is bloody history. “Militias from three opposing sides committed terrible crimes,” which Collon says “have to be tried.”

 

He then accuses the United States of “having utilized Islamic terrorists from Bin Laden’s movement to break up Yugoslavia and to divide the peoples: In Bosnia, in Kosovo, and in Macedonia even.”

 

[Prior to the MOA, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was seen coming in & out of the ARMM camp, hosted no less by friendly MILF forces.]

 

In effect, Collon wants to put on the deck as well “Clinton, Blair, [German Chancellor] Helmut Kohl and the US and German secret services for their clandestine work in Yugoslavia.”

 

After all, according to the writer, “Clinton, also Bush & Company, “admitted that they were carrying out [the] war on behalf of Globalization, the Multinationals and the control of oil supply lines…”

 

“The trial in the Hague,” he concludes, “it is as if Sharon is judging [Palestinian Premier Yassir] Arafat.” [The interview was done on 2 Feb 2002, but only the personae in the violent theater have changed. The structures of deception & domination still stand like pillars of evil.”]

 

Could this brief historical annotation, a “cognitive mapping” of Pax Americana, be applied on the flashpoint in Mindanao, which could have found fruition in the Memorandum of Agreement that was aborted in Malaysia? Curiously, Kenny was also there in official attendance as probably a disinterested observer?

 

We are reminded, after all, that the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was “characterized as ‘Mother of the Tribunal’ at Hague,” whose legitimacy & insidious capacity for justice & restitution is questioned by Collon.

 

Brett Decker’s commentary on the aborted negotiation – temporarily – is revelatory: “To grant Muslim’s significant governing autonomy and the right to live under Shariah law in an expanded area of the archipelago’s southern island” would simply establish a separatist state that wouldn’t guarantee a peaceful enclave for anti-terrorism,” but inflame the division between Christians and Muslims, further “removing Muslims from the rest of Philippine society and enabling them to shape an entirely separatist mentality that dreams of carving out a Pan-Islamic state from other existing countries in the region, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.”

 

She goes to the heart of the stratagem: the MOA would trigger a rewriting of the Constitution, the foremost objective in the no-holds-barred process is the shift fo a parliamentary system that would ensure GMA’s transition to prime ministership.

At such cost also that will transform the “food basket” in the South as untrammeled zone for multinationals, even a negotiated base for foreign troops.

 

Is that why Kenney graced the occasion?

 

To witness the dismemberment of the country? & applaud “Gloria’s terror gambit”?

 

The state, by virtue of its offer to negotiate through the MOA with the MILF (still a ragtag army with a façade of the real, of fundamentalist discipline & prey to internal divisiveness: it’s a splinter group of MNLF which has a different ethnic composition & would surely fall short of rallying Muslims of various tribes behind its governance) has trapped itself into a political cul-de-sac: to rescind the deal is to expose itself as soft, but to enforce it is to declare itself as weak. The MILF, having been formally recognized as an army of a constituted state within the state, could only but arrogantly foray into territories conceded by the state because they have the right to these domains. The state in fact has virtually surrendered these areas, regardless of the provision of plebiscite & other legalese.

 

Is there a way out of it?

 

Not until the people en masse reconstruct the current state, or the legitimate, consensual representation of it – wiping the slate clean & driving the MILF back to its lair.

 

GMA & her cronies, after all, can no longer undo the steps toward capitulation.

 

2.

Verdict

 

He was rummaging through his old file when he found a mysterious print-out that was amusingly referential: “Yes, I know him… he’s our faculty center anarchist, and seems to have a very good opinion of himself. What say you?”
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There was this strange laughter that started to well up from his guts, but no one was around, so he stopped himself lest he be accused, should somebody be lurking around, of going crazy.

 

Smug? Anarchist? The words rolled on his tongue, like marbles he used to play with when young & alone. Maybe – after all – he’s not given to joining causes, although he has the wildcard zest of defending causes & lost friendships. He has a penchant for risking tawdry employment, ha-ha!

 

He knows the guy as some hotshot who receives endowment to write books, or whatever. He even uploads himself on the YouTube, reading his stuff. He, too, must have a humongous opinion of himself, of his lit, even his looks… His attempt at performative immortality he won’t deny, however; It’s I, Me, Mine out there, anyway.

 

Yes, he is gazed at, like a worm under a microscope, by an alien eye. & he cannot imagine how monstrously funny he can be.

 

Probity can be a hilarious business.

 

 

3.

China Syndrome

 

There is a deafening buzz about Chinese restrictions on media reportage – but this is true. Even the journalist from one local daily was barred from entering the Bird’s Nest Stadium, & had to content himself with the official press hand-outs.

 

What’s going on in China? It appears to have revived the walls of Shih Huang-Ti, which isolated it from outsiders for hundreds of years. Does the Old China still persist in the minds of Confucian rulers?

 

Yes, time was when it was when it was perceived to be a garden of hundred flowers, but those days are gone. Coal-fed chimneys have taken over to drape the countryside with thick soot & smog. & for the century’s sideshow, the poor have to be shunted off to the backdoor, to distant villages, away from curious foreign eyes.

 

Yes, the internet is gagged. But it is preposterous for the West to remonstrate: its embedded journalists gave the world a lopsided view of Iraq war & the Yugoslavian partition.

 

Bush telling off the Chinese about human rights? It’s the kettle calling the pot black.

 

Of course, there is a ring of truth in Bush’s spiel, but it is a case of the singer, not the song.

 

Malacañang does that with impunity too, having learned from the masters of doubletalk.

 

Exactly, what is this fabled China, Marco Polo’s Xanadu, that used to linger on the lips of enchanted radicals of the ’70s, but are now wary of remembering temps Perdu.

 

The China of the Beijing Olympics, according to Mobo Gao (The Battle for China’s Past), is the domain “of Deng Xiaoping and many like him [who] were not really Marxist, but basically revolutionary nationalists who wanted to see China on equal terms with great global powers. They were primarily nationalists and they participated in the Communist revolution because that was the only viable route they could find to Chinese nationalism.”

 

Technically, therefore, the Politburo never betrayed the Communist ideals because the current crop of backroom boys has never been Marxist. That they behave like any capitalist landlord is par for the course, as it were, since they have always fashioned themselves as on equal footing with Western moneybags. After all, they crow about their reserves which are basically the lifeline of US economy. If Chinese wheeler-dealers ink pacts with the Arroyo government & its cronies, it is simply the cold, statistical reasons of exchange-value – & never mind the fate of the Filipino proletariat who must suffer from the graft-ridden deals.

 

The demonization of Mao Zedong in gross biographical sketches holds sway among the misinformed generation who is oblivious of the recent history that, in the words of Robbie Kwan Laurel, “the current rapid economic growth of China and its being transformed as the darling of capitalism are only possible because of the efforts towards industrialization, accessible health care, and extensive public education during the era of Mao.”

 

Mao never deviated from his vision.

 

That should assure old activists, who nowadays feel like old Katipuneros gathered under gas lamps after the Fil-American insurrectionary war.

 

 

4.

Lost

(for Camille)

 

He was gazing at the stars
in the night’s blue sky
when he lost sight of her
at the valley
where the twist of vines
vised her in their dry,
yellow leaves of words:
she had swallowed down
her voice
& could only wave
like a drowning moon
at the edge of sunrise:
somewhere in the depths
of her new religion
of summertime
she must have conjured
the proper salvation
& chosen a harlequin
for a guide
through the widening circus
of hell.
The stars didn’t semaphore
the dismal appearance
though he had been forewarned
by meteors of signs:
he’s also the wraith of wind
wrapping her
in its arms
& swiftly vanishing
at the approach of sundown.

 

 


5.
Killer

 

The street kid
accosts him
as he leaves the Warehouse
from where,
having counted the pesos
for a folder,
he wearily looks out
for a jeepney to carry
him home –
but the child’s begging hands,
like an imaginary spear,
draws instead
blood of silent raging
he can’t understand:
O how he wants
to bash its head in
& clean up the ghetto
of spawns
who leave a corkscrew
in his heart.
He grits his teeth:
things do not matter,
once thrown a coin,
even a sideward glance,
the punk will just go his way,
& ambush another clown
set up by the lily-livered
to be another soft touch.

 

 


6.
Aliens
(for Ochel & Larmie)

 

Summer when they land
in Maryland,
the young couple
out to stake their future
in an American backyard…
but East Coast
still quivers in their bones,
& mornings are as strange
as the sun,
pall & yellowish,
unlike in Mindoro countryside.
The ground beneath them
has the color & texture
of something familiar,
yet they have to examine it
closely,
like their bodies’
which stand out
in the crowd of colors
at the supermart:
Asians, Blacks,
Chicanos, WASPs…
O How they feel
so awkward, so gunshy,
almost invisible
as they walk,
lugging a paper bag
of frozen meat & bread,
home,
virtually a dorm
for expats…
perplexedly tired
& anxious
how can they cope
with the always examined fact,
that they’re finally here,
here which they had
dreamt of so many times,
years ago while wading
in Manila floods.
In the silence of their room,
do they hear familial voices
for comfort –
all is fine,
never fear the morrow –
like children groping for hands
to steady them
on the wide, wide floor
of Oz.

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3 Responses to The Philippines as Yugoslavia Revisited

  1. Ambeth Ocampo says:

    Thanks for making me continue to rethink what I was taught in school, and to continue reflecting on what I wrote after it has since been printed and the newsprint made to serve other more practical uses.

  2. Pingback: Stop US Wars » Blog Archive » The Philippines as Yugoslavia Revisited

  3. Mathew James says:

    Great post, it was very informative. I think its a must read.
    http://www.customwrittenpapers.com/

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